Homeschooling - Dr. Gordon Neufeld

This material looks at homeschooling from the perspective of psychological development and in particular, the dynamics of attachment, maturation and socialization. Dr. Neufeld has been invited to keynote and present at a number of homeschooling conferences and conventions. His primary contribution is to shed light on the socialization controversy concerning home-schooled children and to elucidate the developmental factors that should be taken into consideration when considering the option. Another area of contribution is to educate parents about the factors that govern a child’s teachability and the need to take this into consideration in developing an approach to their child’s education.

Homeschooling and the Peer Problem

The prevailing assumption is that the greatest drawback to homeschooling is the loss of social interaction with peers. Times have changed however, making peer interaction more of a problem than an asset. Instead of peer interaction facilitating the process of socialization, it is now more likely to lead to the premature replacement of adults by peers in the life of a child. Such children become peer-oriented rather than adult-oriented and are more difficult to parent and teach. Furthermore, peer-oriented children fail to mature psychologically and their integration into adult society is compromised.

Because of escalating peer orientation, it is now the school that has become risky business. What was once the most powerful argument against home-schooling is now its most persuasive defense. Contrary to prevailing concerns, home-schooled children are showing evidence of being more mature psychologically, more socially adept and more academically prepared for university. They have become the favoured applicants of a number of major universities.

If current trends in society continue, homeschooling may very well become a necessary antidote to escalating peer-orientation. We may need to reclaim our children not only to preserve or recover the context in which to teach and parent them but also for the sake of society at large and the transmission of culture.

The Argument for Homeschooling

The developmental needs of children were never paramount in the arguments that led to the inception of compulsory education. Indeed, there was little that was even understood or known about child development at that time. It should not be surprising therefore to find that developmental science does not support school as the best context for children to learn, to mature or to become socialized. Although the school has become a central institution in our society, it is not without risks to emotional health and development.

In his presentations on this topic, Dr. Neufeld presents five factors that, when all things are considered, tend to favour homeschooling over traditional schooling, given the home is suitable of course, the parent capable, the child receptive and the option exists. These factors include the enabling of parents, the emotional health of the child, interest and curiousity, the socialization of the child and the teachability of the child. Given sufficient time, these arguments are developed accordingly.

Teachability and Homeschooling

Homeschooling educational material tends to champion one pedagogical approach over another and often neglects to take into consideration the teachability factors of the individual child. Homeschoolers who lack emergent functioning will not benefit from idealistic approaches that focus on interests and put the child in the driver’s seat. On the other hand, children who are unadaptive will not benefit from correction or trial-and-error learning. Defended learners are very sensitive to attachment factors and require a great deal of structure and familiarity in their learning environment. Understanding the factors that determine teachability should enable homeschooling parents to choose an approach that best suits their child. To make the most out of a child’s homeschooling experience, it is important to match teaching to teachability.